Ashleigh Pelto

  • Hosted by DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended), Inc.
  • Sponsored by Jones Day Foundation, Procter & Gamble Co.
  • Service location Quincy, Massachusetts
  • Law school The University of Michigan Law School
  • Issue area Human Trafficking and Victim’s Rights Enforcement
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Ashleigh’s project will help her host organization DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended), Inc. expand its current services to include immigration and criminal record relief for human trafficking victims in the South Shore, Massachusetts community.

Human trafficking is one of the most endemic crimes of our time, yet our legal system has only recently begun to address it. In Massachusetts, trafficking was not codified as a crime until 2011—and there remains a lack of knowledge throughout the state about the ability to serve victims through the legal system. Over 90% of trafficking victims are arrested at some point during their trafficking experience and over half believe that all the following convictions were a direct result of their being a victim of trafficking. Further, abuse of the legal process is one of the most common tactics traffickers use to coerce their victims into compliance, and in the labor trafficking context this generally looks like confiscating legal documents, causing victims to overstay their visas, bringing them over to the United States on falsework terms, so when victims escape they are left incredibly vulnerable to United States immigration laws.

Ashleigh is excited about the potential DOVE has to transform the anti-trafficking landscape in Massachusetts by providing Massachusetts trafficking victims with the services they need in order to break free of chains their traffickers have placed upon them and move forward with their healing process.

Fellowship Plans

This project will address these issues through criminal record relief, immigration relief, and community partnerships. Criminal record relief will come in the form of applications under Massachusetts’ trafficking victim vacatur law. Under this law, if a trafficking victim can establish that he or she engaged in criminal activity because they were a victim of trafficking at the time, the court can vacate their conviction. Immigration relief will come primarily in the form of T-Visas which are visas specifically designed for victims of human trafficking. This project will rely on DOVE’s existing community partnerships, as well as focus on developing new partnerships, in order to develop a robust relief network focused on addressing the needs of trafficking victims through trainings in victim identification and forms of relief.

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